As George Orwell would have put it, some people are more equal than others. That’s why, at the moment, with barely four weeks until the election, Mike Bloomberg is outspending Bill Thompson by 16 to 1.
For those of us who believe in fair play, this seems like a monstrous inequality. As Shakespeare's Cassius might have said, “What meat has this Mayor eaten that he has grown so great!" But Mike Bloomberg is no Caesar. In fact, many of his friends say, he is a nice guy. And he is known as a most generous philanthropist.
But there is an issue here that is bigger than Bloomberg. Bigger than New York. And that is the place of money in politics. It’s an issue that should concern all Americans.
Our billionaire mayor is the richest man in New York. In other cities and states rich men and women have enjoyed great advantages in their political races. But in this election New York is a case study in the corruption of the political process by money.
Bloomberg has done nothing illegal by spend $65 million dollars thus far in the cause of getting himself re-elected. As he did nothing illegal in virtually buying himself a chance to be mayor for a third term. The fact that the citizens of New York twice voted by referendum for term limits didn’t faze him.
Nor did the fact that he himself said, a few years back, that any attempt to change term limits would be a disgrace. Showering money wherever it would help his cause, he managed to get the City Council to overturn term limits by a small margin.
Reportedly Bloomberg is ready to spend upwards of 100 million dollars before this is over. His Democratic opponent, Bill Thompson, has scraped together 3.8 million so far and, before it’s over, with help from the campaign finance law, he’ll be able to scrape up a few million more.
But he’s not in the same ballpark as our mayor. And, speaking of ball parks, the ideal of those who support term limits is to have a level playing field. That way, the people would have a chance to hear all of the arguments and render a decision based on all the evidence.
Our mayor is not only spending money like the proverbial drunken sailor -- some of the people he’s hired for this campaign seem to have been hired just to keep the other guy from hiring them. They’re not working. They’re on standby -- just so they won’t lend their brains to the enemy.
And some of them have traditionally worked for Democratic candidates. Regardless of Bloomberg’s morality, it certainly doesn’t speak well for the morality of what I would call turncoat consultants.
New York Times reporters Michael Barbaro and David Chen have some interesting statistics. To market Bounty paper towels, Procter and Gamble last year spent about 63 million. To advertise Yoplait Light yogurt, General Mills spent about 62 million. And, as the Times says, "these corporate giants have nothing on Michael R. Bloomberg."
It was amusing the other day when a spokeswoman for the mayor criticized Thompson for his fund raising. She said that, because he was raising so little money from so few contributors, it was clear he didn’t have grass roots support. When the billionaire’s press person criticizes his pauper opponent for being a pauper, I would call that chutzpah! How else could you describe it?
National political giants like John McCain and Russ Feingold have tried, without great success, to pass campaign finance laws with teeth.
I have a suggestion for Mike Bloomberg -- Whether you win or lose, Mr. Mayor, put aside a few million bucks to start a foundation to establish campaign finance laws with teeth on federal and state levels.
Now, that would be serving the public interest. That would be building democracy for the future.